The construction of UMBC’s new Event Center has made significant progress, just a year after the project was initiated. The project is expected to be completed sometime between the Fall semester of 2017 and Spring semester of 2018.
The UMBC Event Center is a 172,000 square foot facility currently under construction on the south side of campus, between the Stadium Lot and the Soccer Stadium. With its $85 million budget, it intends to serve as a venue for UMBC events, such as UMBC NCAA athletic games, commencements, concerts, featured speakers and banquets. It will contain about 5,000 seats in the bowl and 1,000 seats on the floor, allowing the center to seat approximately 2,000 more people than the current arena in the Retriever Activities Center (RAC).
In addition to the arena, there will be an athletics department on the fourth floor and a practice gym for varsity athletes on the first floor. The new gym and upgraded locker rooms will allow NCAA Division 1 athletics to have their own practice space, while the RAC will continue to be used by students in intramural and recreational sports.
The RAC, opened in 1973 as the UMBC Fieldhouse, is becoming insufficient to support the size of the events UMBC regularly hosts. The Event Center will be able to shoulder that burden and provide the athletics department for room to grow. As UMBC President Hrabowski said, “It will change the campus completely…[We] are doing very well academically and we want to do better and better athletically.”
The goal of this project is to support recruitment and retention of high quality student athletes. Jethro Ssengonzi, a freshman mechanical engineering major and a member of the UMBC Varsity Swimming and Diving Team, believes that attracting recruits through this Event Center is a long term investment. “For people to be – especially recruits – to be attracted to a Division 1 program, you need to have the facilities,” he said, “It’s all about the facilities. The fact that they would get a separate location to do their practices and events is encouraging.”
Aside from benefitting the athletics program, the Event Center will allow for visitors and incoming students that are attending games, welcoming ceremonies or commencements to have an exciting sense of arrival. On the main arena entry level, there will be a concession stand, catering, guest services, restrooms and security available to provide a secure and enjoyable environment.
The construction has not and will not affect the forested area around campus that is used for environmental research. It has also avoided halting traffic flow, since the marked off site is not obstructing any main roads.